The hills are alive

An atypical concert in the Abu Ghosh vocal classical music festival is Cinema Paradiso.

Cinema Paradiso (photo credit: Courtesy)
Cinema Paradiso
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Abu Ghosh Festival is our leading vocal classical music event, but for some time now the biannual program has shown an increasing tendency to incorporate material from an ever-increasing genre circle.
Festival regulars will recognize many of the composers’ names and some of the works too, with the likes of Mendelssohn’s Ave Maria, as well as Schubert’s rendition of the prayer; Bach’s Gloria and his Great Mass in B Minor; and various arias by Bizet and Rossini, all lined up between October 19 and October 22.
But there is plenty of non-classical entertainment lined up at Abu Ghosh as well. Consider a choral piece from ragtime composer Scott Joplin’s Treemonisha opera; a concert devoted to numbers written by Mikis Theodorakis for the Zorba the Greek musical; and songs by The Beatles and Canadian singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell.
The first day of the festival features the Cinema Paradiso concert (at 2 p.m.) with a program of soundtracks, including such timeless songs as “Somewhere over the Rainbow” from The Wizard of Oz, “Moon River” from Breakfast at Tiffany’s and “Life Is Beautiful” from Roberto Benigni’s Oscar-winning movie of the same name. The concert also includes songs from Israeli classic films such as “Long Road” from Dizengoff 99 and “Going away from Me” from Late Summer Blues.
The Cinema Paradiso vocalist, soprano Noa Israeli, admits to having a penchant for non-classical material.
“I have performed at Abu Ghosh several times over the years, and I like to fit non-classical material among the classical music,” she declares.
Indeed, she has cast her singing net far and wide over the years, performing Renaissance material alongside 21st-century music, American folk songs and numbers from Broadway musicals. “As time goes by, I find myself being drawn away from classical music and more to what is known as popular music,” she says.
For the Cinema Paradiso slot, Israeli joins forces with longtime performing ally, guitarist Gideon Bretler, with cellist Andrea Markush completing the lineup. In fact, Israeli casts her occupational net far and wide too, earning her crust as a clinical psychologist and freeing up time for her stage work several times a year.
But Abu Ghosh occupies a special place in her heart, and on her calendar. “It’s an amazing location to sing in,” she says. “There is something so warm and inviting about the festival.”
Israeli and Bretler put the Cinema Paradiso program together and also took care of the arrangements. Israeli says that since the material comes from a wide temporal range of movies, she expects the concert to appeal to people of all ages. ”All the films were box office hits, so I’m sure the audience will identify the numbers and enjoy the way we do them, too.”
But there are advantages and disadvantages to performing such widely known material. “I listen to different interpretations of the songs, but I don’t want to be too influenced by previous performances of them,” notes the singer. “I mainly listen to myself, the way I want to sing them and where the rendition takes me.”
With her prior experience at Abu Ghosh, Israeli was also able to take the acoustics of The Crypt into consideration when compiling the song list for the Cinema Paradiso concert.
“Of course, I thought about how each song would sound in the church. There is material that comes over better when you sing straight into a microphone and, to tell you the truth, the church space is better suited to classical material, which resonates right around the interior.
But you have to know how to deliver each song. That’s very much part of the trick.”
Besides the soundtrack entertainment, the Abu Ghosh venues – Kiryat Ye’arim Church and The Crypt – will resound to French and English madrigals at the A Musical Fantasy in Four Voices concert, which also includes songs by George Gershwin, Cole Porter and Kurt Weill, versions of Stabat Mater by Pergolesi, Scarlatti and Rheinberger, with Stanley Sperber conducting the Jerusalem Academy Choir, and a high-octane Virtuoso Spanish Music program with soprano Sivan Rotem, guitarist Baldi Olier and The Moran Singers.
For more information about the Abu Ghosh Festival: For tickets: (03) 604-500 and *8965 or (02) 623-7000.